The opening week or so of the NBA season was essentially perfect for the Milwaukee Bucks, so why not spend some time reliving it?
The Milwaukee Bucks have burst out of the gates for the 2018-2019 NBA season with six consecutive wins, while playing high-quality basketball almost every step of the way.
As a result, it’s safe to say the Bucks’ impressive start to the year is worthy of further reflection. So without further ado, let’s take a deeper look into the first two weeks of the season, including who made the biggest difference, the most impressive statistics, and the most-eye popping plays.
After a nail-biter of an opener against the Charlotte Hornets where Nicolas Batum missed an open three at the buzzer, the Bucks have ripped off five straight double-digit wins. Three of those wins have come against playoff teams from last year.
There is no single source of the Bucks’ early success but a lot of it can be attributed to Coach Mike Budenholzer’s new scheme. In effect, Coach Bud has turned the same clunky pick-up truck Jason Kidd was driving last year into a well-oiled, mint-condition Porsche.
The biggest changes have been the team’s rebounding and three-point shooting. The Bucks rank first in the league in both rebounding and made three-pointers per game respectively, averaging 55.3 boards per game and 15 made triples per contest. Last season, the Bucks ranked last and fourth-last in these categories, respectively.
Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Bucks’ superstar and fearless leader, has shown out during the first two weeks. His best game of the season to date came against the 76ers in a game broadcast on ESPN. Giannis notched a 32-point, 18-rebound, and 10-assist triple-double in the Bucks’ win. For the first six games, the Greek Freak is averaging an impressive 25.0 points, 14.2 rebounds, and 5.7 assists in only 30.7 minutes per contest.
That dip in minutes is due to an injury scare during Saturday’s contest (reportedly, he’s fine) against the Orlando Magic and the starters being pulled early in several of the blowouts. During the demolition of the Timberwolves, the Bucks starters didn’t touch the court in the fourth quarter.
Something to keep an eye on, though, is Giannis’s career-high five turnovers per game this season. At times, his drives have been out of control and he has either lost the ball or been called for a charge. With it being a small sample size and his first few games in a new offense, it is reasonable to fully expect his turnovers to decline as the season progresses.
Khris Middleton has also started the year at a torrid pace, continuing his hot streak from last season’s playoffs. Middleton is third in the league with 24 made three-pointers and is second on the team with a jaw-dropping 23.4 net rating.
The addition of Brook Lopez is clearly making a difference. Lopez is a big reason why the Bucks have been rebounding so well. Although he doesn’t make a big dent in this area on the stat sheet, his box-outs have allowed Giannis and others to come down with a lot more rebounds.
Lopez’s floor-stretching three-point stroke has also been influential. Brook is canning a career-high 2.7 three-pointers per game at a 41 percent rate, also a career high. Similarly to Giannis, his best performance was against the 76ers, where he put up 21 points and hit several threes in the second quarter. This allowed the Bucks to come back from a 14-point deficit and eventually take a seven-point lead at the half; a lead that was not relinquished for the rest of the game.
W – Bucks 113, Hornets 112
W – Bucks 118, Pacers 101
W – Bucks 124, Knicks 113
W – Bucks 123, 76ers 108
W – Bucks 125, Timberwolves 95
W – Bucks 113, Magic 91
MVP: Coach Mike Budenholzer
Through only six games, it is apparent the Bucks made the right decision in hiring Coach Bud to take the helm. The Bucks rank ninth in the league in offensive rating and second in defensive rating. The increased ball movement has been easy on the eyes and the scrappy, but smart defense has given the opposition fits, forcing them to take low-quality mid-range shots.
Biggest surprise: Donte DiVincenzo‘s immediate contributions off the bench
Donte DiVincenzo has averaged 19.7 energy-filled minutes per game. Although he is not shooting very efficiently, Donte has looked comfortable on the court and accrued a healthy 15.5 net rating. This is the first time since 2014 with Jabari Parker that a Bucks first-round pick has broken into the lineup and has been a significant contributor early in his career.
Most notable team statistic: League-leading 15.0 net rating
Honorable mention: League-leading 74.2 Contested shots per game
Most notable player statistic: Khris Middleton shooting 28-of-42 (57. percent) from three
Bucks’ Roster Power Rankings
1. Giannis Antetokounmpo
2. Khris Middleton
3. Brook Lopez
4. Eric Bledsoe
7. John Henson
8. Donte DiVincenzo
9. Tony Snell
10. Pat Connaughton
12. Sterling Brown
13. Thon Maker
14. Christian Wood
15. D.J. Wilson
Top 5 plays of the first two weeks:
5. Pat Connaughton posterizes Gorgui Dieng
4. Giannis’ driving dunk on Taj Gibson
3. Eric Bledsoe crosses up Nikola Vucevic
2. Giannis’ steal and windmill dunk
1. Giannis’ no-look, behind-the-head assist to reach triple-double vs. 76ers
Over the course of the next week, the Bucks will face major playoff rivals such as the Raptors and Celtics, before preparing for their first West coast trip of the season.